Panel declines to pay LSCP dues

Lake Superior Partnership CEO Amy Clickner, far right, addresses the Ishpeming City Council about her organization’s 2017 accomplishments during a recent Ishpeming City Council meeting. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — The Ishpeming City Council heard an update from the Lake Superior Community Partnership Wednesday, but could not support a budget amendment that would help to fund the organization, officials said.

Councilman Stu Skauge made a motion to amend the 2018 budget and contribute $5,000 to the partnership, citing savings in city staffing over the last three months, but it failed for lack of support.

“I do think this is worthwhile,” Skauge said. “We have saved some money and one of the reasons I understood you took it out is we wanted to hire an additional police officer, which we went (without for) over three months. We are short in the (department of public works), we also saved some money there, and I think the least we can do is support this.”

Councilman Karl Lehmann said he was supportive of the LSCP’s mission, but the question of contributing financially had been voted down twice during the city’s 2018 budget process.

“While I agree with Stuart in principle, we have had it through the budget process twice,” Lehmann said. “I would be very receptive to getting into this subject again for next year’s budget. I just don’t see after voting on it twice that we would come back and do it.”

During her presentation, LSCP CEO Amy Clickner said Marquette County saw nearly $1billion in investment and saw positive wealth indicators in 2017, including slight increases in median home prices and income tax revenue.

In Ishpeming in 2017, Clickner said LSCP served 38 clients, and assisted with $95,000 in investment, according to a report shared with the council. The organization impacted 666 jobs within the community; protected 21 jobs; helped two businesses with site selection; assisted with four business plans; provided technical assistance to three businesses; helped four businesses with financing; three businesses were provided with marketing assistance; and seven were provided with talent connections.

Councilman Justin Koski said he has respect for the work the partnership is doing, but the city’s priorities in the 2018 budget focused on adding a police officer, increasing its contribution to the the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team and resolving a deficit in the water fund.

“We are spending taxpayer money on everything that we do as a city, so it comes down to — I mean this got jumbled up with UPSET, a police officer and the partnership,” Koski said. “Those are the three things the community is looking at. (It’s) an ugly thing to be standing up against. And, you know, if we sit out for a year, it doesn’t mean that we are not a huge advocate. We know that you are not going to back out of the city of Ishpeming because we can’t afford to pay $5,000 for one year. I personally will look at what we did this year and say let’s really shoot to give LSCP more because we missed this year. Let’s give them $7,500 for two years so we can get caught up. I feel your pain and I know, if we could do anything, we would.

“But we’ve made a commitment to the budget,” Koski continued. “I don’t think you are here threatening that you are going to take all the development that you are doing for the city of Ishpeming away because we are not paying our $5,000 dues. I personally looked through, and thought, man, what can we do? But we are in a really tough situation with the water deficit. It’s just like a little perfect storm.”

Clickner said she understood the council’s budget concerns, but pointed out the benefit that economic growth can provide.

“The only point I would make for consideration — is we truly know that the only way to turn your budget around is to increase tax revenues,” Clickner said. “And where does that that come from? It’s driven by economic development … Just food for thought as we continue to work down that path for next time.”

According to the LSCP report, the city has not contributed to the organization since 2010.

Clickner said 85 percent of the LSCP funding comes from private sources with the remainder coming from municipal sources and fees for services.